I recently received word that former Grand Ole Opry member Little Jimmie Sizemore passed away on October 14, at the age of 86.
James L. Sizemore was born in Paintsville, Kentucky on January 29, 1928. He was the son of Asher Sizemore, who was a singer but more importantly, one of the great country music promotors of his time. Jimmie (or in some cases spelled Jimmy) came to the Grand Ole Opry with his father in 1932, at the age of 5. They were a very popular duo, thanks in part to Asher's great promotional skills. In 1933, Asher would say many times that Little Jimmie knew over 200 songs. Among those songs were "The Booger Bear", "Has Anybody Seen My Kitty?", and "Little Feet." His best selling record was "Little Jimmy's Goodbye to Jimmie Rodgers", recorded in 1934. One of his best known by most fans was "My Little Rooster".
After coming to the Opry in 1933, they split their time between WSM and WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky. They also had a fifteen minute transcription program that was distributed thoughout the Midwest. The shows were very profitable as Asher hawked paperback songbooks on each program; he was among the first country performers to use this method to raise additional income. Asher also worked to have songs he owned or published recorded by other acts.
The Sizemores also had a program on the NBC Network for a short period of time, becoming one of the first Opry acts to have a national program. They left they Opry in 1942, but continued to perform and work throughout the Midwest. They had programs on radio stations in Waterloo, Iowa, Des Moines, St. Louis and Atlanta, in addition to their program in Louisville.
Jimmy served in the Korean War, after which he settled in Arkansas with his father, who died in 1975. Jimmy served as an executive with a Jacksonville, Arkansas radio station, and then moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma. Jimmie continued to perform at country music shows throughout the Midwest, and was still performing as recent as several years ago.
Asher and Little Jimmie's first Opry appearance was on September 24, 1932. It was said by many that Asher and Little Jimmie are the best-remembered figures from the 1930s show. After joining the Opry, they were on almost every week in 1933, about three months in 1934 and from January to April in 1935. After a series of appearances on the NBC Network, they were back on the Opry for eight weeks in 1936 and 1937, and for about four months in 1939. After that, they appearances decreased until they left the show.
Little Jimmie is one of the Opry's forgotten members. I did a quick check of the Opry's annual reunion shows, sometimes called Old-Timer's Night, and I don't see Little Jimmie listed on any of the shows. I had heard that he did come back to visit the Opry in the 1970s, but I don't have the date handy. Either way, he would have been the last Opry performer alive from the 1930s.
I listed to the Opry for the past several weekends, and from what I could hear, there has been no mention of Little Jimmie's passing. No show dedication and no announcement. I know it had been 70 years since he left the Opry, but I still think a mention sould have been made. And to be honest, he should have been asked back for a performance in his later years.
Another of the Opry's early stars, Little Jimmie Sizemore.